Views of Life
Written: Early 1844 - June 1845.  First Published: 1846.

The poem was begun in early 1844, but then abandoned; and not completed until around the end of the Thorp Green era - June 1845: Only the first sixteen verses were copied into her copy-book in 1844. In the manuscript it is untitled, and there is evidence of a number of alterations over a period of time. There were a few more alterations, and the title 'Views of Life' was given for its inclusion in Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell: both versions are presented below.

Edward Chitham writes: 'The poem, in dialogue form, strongly foreshadows 'Self-Communion' and pits Youth against Experience. As in several of Anne Bronte's poems, Hope is regarded as a good quality in itself. There are many similarities between this work and other passages in the writings of Anne and Emily . . .' and these 'show the continuing dialogue in Anne's mind between instinctive sympathy for the buoyant side of adolescence, first seen in 'Alexander and Zenobia'.'

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.115 & p.184)


Untitled

When sinks my heart in hopeless gloom,
And life can shew no joy for me,
And I behold a yawning tomb
Where bowers and palaces should be,

In vain, you talk of morbid dreams,
In vain, you gaily smiling say
That what to me so dreary seems
The healthy mind deems bright and gay.

I too have smiled, and thought like you,
But madly smiled, and falsely deemed:
My present thoughts I know are true,
I'm waking now, 'twas then I dreamed.

I lately saw a sunset sky,
And stood enraptured to behold
Its varied hues of glorious dye:
First, fleecy clouds of shining gold;

These blushing took a rosy hue;
Beneath them shone a flood of green;
Nor less divine, the glorious blue
That smiled above them and between:

I cannot name each lovely shade,
I cannot say how bright they shone;
But one by one I saw them fade,
And what remained whey they were gone?

Dull clouds remained of sombre hue,
And when their borrowed charm was o'er,
The sky grew dull and charmless too
That smiled so softly bright before.

So gilded by the glow of youth
Our varied life looks fair and gay,
And so remains the naked truth
When that false light is past away.

Why blame ye, then, my keener sight
That clearly sees a world of woes
Through all the haze of golden light
That flattering Falsehood round it throws?

When the young mother smiles above
The first born darling of her heart
Her bosom glows with earnest love
While tears of speechless rapture start.

Fond dreamer! little does she know
The anxious toil, the suffering,
The blasted hopes, the burning woe,
The object of her joy will bring.

Her blinded eyes behold not now
What soon or late must be his doom,
The anguish that will cloud his brow,
The bed of death, the dreary tomb.

As little know the youthful pair
In mutual love supremely blest
What weariness and cold despair
Ere long will seize the aching breast.

And even should love and faith remain
(The greatest blessings life can show)
Amid adversity and pain
To shine throughout with cheering glow,

They do not see how cruel death
Comes on, their loving hearts to part;
One feels not now the gasping breath,
The rending of the earthbound heart,

The soul's and body's agony,
Ere she may sink to her repose;
The sad survivor cannot see
The grave above his darling close,

Nor how, despairing and alone,
He then must wear his life away
And linger feebly toiling on,
And fainting sink into decay.

O, youth may listen patiently,
While sad experience tells her tale;
But doubt sits smiling in his eye,
For ardent hope will still prevail.

He hears how feeble Pleasure dies,
By guilt destroyed, and pain and woe;
He turns to Hope -­ and she replies
'Believe it not -­ it is not so!'

'O! heed her not,' experience says,
'For thus she whispered once to me;
She told me in my youthful days
How glorious manhood's prime would be.

'When in the time of early Spring,
Too chill the winds that o'er me passed,
She said each coming day would bring
A fairer heaven, a gentler blast.

'And when the sun too seldom beamed,
The sky o'ercast too darkly frowned,
The frequent rain too constant streamed,
And mists too dreary gathered round,

'She told me Summer's glorious ray
Would chase those vapours all away,
          And scatter glories round,
With sweetest music fill the trees,
Load with rich scent the gentle breeze
          And strew with flowers the ground.

'But when beneath that scorching sky
I languished weary through the day
          While birds refused to sing,
Verdure decayed from field and tree,
And panting nature mourned with me
          The freshness of the Spring.

'Wait but a little while,' she said,
'Till Summer's burning days are fled,
          And Autumn shall restore
With golden riches of her own,
And Summer's glories mellowed down
          The freshness you deplore.'

'And long I waited, but in vain;
That freshness never came again,
          Though Summer passed away,
Though Autumn's mists hung cold and chill
And drooping nature languished still,
          And sank into decay;

'Till wintry blasts foreboding blew
Through leafless trees -­ and then I knew
          That hope was all a dream.
But thus, fond youth, she cheated me,
And she will prove as false to thee,
          Though sweet her words may seem.'

Stern prophet! cease thy bodings dire -­
Thou canst not quench the ardent fire
          That warms the breast of youth.
O! let it cheer him while it may,
And gently, gently, die away
          Chilled by the damps of truth.

Tell him that earth is not our rest,
Its joys are empty, frail at best;
          And point beyond the sky;
But gleams of light may reach us here,
And hope the roughest path can cheer:
          Then do not bid it fly.

Though hope may promise joys that still
Unkindly time will ne'er fulfil;
          Or if they come at all,
We never find them unalloyed -­
Hurtful perchance, or soon destroyed,
          They vanish or they pall.

Yet hope itself a brightness throws
O'er all our labours and our woes,
          While dark foreboding care
A thousand ills will oft portend
That Providence may ne'er intend
          The trembling heart to bear.

Or if they come, it oft appears,
Our woes are lighter than our fears,
          And far more strongly borne.
Then let us not enhance our doom,
But e'en in midnight's blackest gloom
          Expect the rising morn.

Because the road is rough and long,
Shall we despise the skylark's song,
          That cheers the wanderer's way?
Or trample down, with reckless feet
The smiling flowerets bright and sweet
          Because they soon decay?

Pass pleasant scenes unnoticed by,
Because the next is bleak and drear;
Or not enjoy a smiling sky
Because a tempest may be near?

No! while we journey on our way,
We'll notice every lovely thing,
And ever as they pass away,
To memory and hope we'll cling.

And though that awful river flows
Before us when the journey's past,
Perchance of all the pilgrim's woes
Most dreadful, shrink not -­ 'tis the last!

Though icy cold, and dark, and deep;
Beyond it smiles that blessed shore
Where none shall suffer, none shall weep,
And bliss shall reign for evermore.


Views Of Life

When sinks my heart in hopeless gloom,
And life can shew no joy for me;
And I behold a yawning tomb,
Where bowers and palaces should be;

In vain you talk of morbid dreams;
In vain you gaily smiling say,
That what to me so dreary seems,
The healthy mind deems bright and gay.

I too have smiled, and thought like you,
But madly smiled, and falsely deemed:
Truth led me to the present view,
I'm waking now -- 'twas then I dreamed.

I lately saw a sunset sky,
And stood enraptured to behold
Its varied hues of glorious dye:
First, fleecy clouds of shining gold;

These blushing took a rosy hue;
Beneath them shone a flood of green;
Nor less divine, the glorious blue
That smiled above them and between.

I cannot name each lovely shade;
I cannot say how bright they shone;
But one by one, I saw them fade;
And what remained whey they were gone?

Dull clouds remained, of sombre hue,
And when their borrowed charm was o'er,
The azure sky had faded too,
That smiled so softly bright before.

So, gilded by the glow of youth,
Our varied life looks fair and gay;
And so remains the naked truth,
When that false light is past away.

Why blame ye, then, my keener sight,
That clearly sees a world of woes,
Through all the haze of golden light,
That flattering Falsehood round it throws?

When the young mother smiles above
The first-born darling of her heart,
Her bosom glows with earnest love,
While tears of silent transport start.

Fond dreamer! little does she know
The anxious toil, the suffering,
The blasted hopes, the burning woe,
The object of her joy will bring.

Her blinded eyes behold not now
What, soon or late, must be his doom;
The anguish that will cloud his brow,
The bed of death, the dreary tomb.

As little know the youthful pair,
In mutual love supremely blest,
What weariness, and cold despair,
Ere long, will seize the aching breast.

And, even, should Love and Faith remain,
(The greatest blessings life can show,)
Amid adversity and pain,
To shine, throughout with cheering glow;

They do not see how cruel Death
Comes on, their loving hearts to part:
One feels not now the gasping breath,
The rending of the earth-bound heart, --

The soul's and body's agony,
Ere she may sink to her repose,
The sad survivor cannot see
The grave above his darling close;

Nor how, despairing and alone,
He then must wear his life away;
And linger, feebly toiling on,
And fainting, sink into decay.

*   *   *  

Oh, Youth may listen patiently,
While sad Experience tells her tale;
But Doubt sits smiling in his eye,
For ardent Hope will still prevail!

He hears how feeble Pleasure dies,
By guilt destroyed, and pain and woe;
He turns to Hope -­ and she replies,
'Believe it not -­ it is not so!'

'Oh, heed her not!' Experience says,
'For thus she whispered once to me;
She told me, in my youthful days,
How glorious manhood's prime would be.

When, in the time of early Spring,
Too chill the winds that o'er me pass'd,
She said, each coming day would bring
A fairer heaven, a gentler blast.

And when the sun too seldom beamed,
The sky, o'ercast, too darkly frowned,
The soaking rain too constant streamed,
And mists too dreary gathered round;

'She told me Summer's glorious ray
Would chase those vapours all away,
          And scatter glories round,
With sweetest music fill the trees,
Load with rich scent the gentle breeze,
          And strew with flowers the ground.

But when, beneath that scorching ray,
I languished, weary, through the day,
          While birds refused to sing,
Verdure decayed from field and tree,
And panting Nature mourned with me
          The freshness of the Spring.

"Wait but a little while," she said,
"Till Summer's burning days are fled;
          And Autumn shall restore,
With golden riches of her own,
And Summer's glories mellowed down,
          The freshness you deplore."

And long I waited, but in vain:
That freshness never came again,
          Though Summer passed away,
Though Autumn's mists hung cold and chill,
And drooping nature languished still,
          And sank into decay.

Till wintry blasts foreboding blew
Through leafless trees -­ and then I knew
          That Hope was all a dream.
But thus, fond youth, she cheated me;
And she will prove as false to thee,
          Though sweet her words may seem.'

Stern prophet! Cease thy bodings dire -­
Thou canst not quench the ardent fire
          That warms the breast of youth.
Oh, let it cheer him while it may,
And gently, gently die away --
          Chilled by the damps of truth!

Tell him, that earth is not our rest;
Its joys are empty -- frail at best;
          And point beyond the sky.
But gleams of light may reach us here;
And hope the roughest path can cheer:
          Then do not bid it fly!

Though hope may promise joys, that still
Unkindly time will ne'er fulfil;
          Or, if they come at all,
We never find them unalloyed, -­
Hurtful perchance, or soon destroyed,
          They vanish or they pall;

Yet hope itself a brightness throws
O'er all our labours and our woes;
          While dark foreboding Care
A thousand ills will oft portend,
That Providence may ne'er intend
          The trembling heart to bear.

Or if they come, it oft appears,
Our woes are lighter than our fears,
          And far more bravely borne.
Then let us not enhance our doom;
But e'en in midnight's blackest gloom
          Expect the rising morn.

Because the road is rough and long,
Shall we despise the skylark's song,
          That cheers the wanderer's way?
Or trample down, with reckless feet,
The smiling flowerets, bright and sweet
          Because they soon decay?

Pass pleasant scenes unnoticed by,
Because the next is bleak and drear;
Or not enjoy a smiling sky,
Because a tempest may be near?

No! while we journey on our way,
We'll notice every lovely thing;
And ever, as they pass away,
To memory and hope we'll cling.

And though that awful river flows
Before us, when the journey's past,
Perchance of all the pilgrim's woes
Most dreadful -- shrink not -­ 'tis the last!

Though icy cold, and dark, and deep;
Beyond it smiles that blessed shore,
Where none shall suffer, none shall weep,
And bliss shall reign for evermore!

Acton


Copyright © 2000 Michael Armitage

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